On May 21, 1975, Vytautas Kabelis, the principal of the Balys Dvarionas Children's Music School of Vilnius and Jonas Urba, the party secretary at the school, summoned the music teacher (Miss) Aldona Kezytė, who teaches the required piano class to the students in the Choral Department and ordered her to prepare a statement, that showed voluntarily resigning her position as a teacher.
The principal stated that he had no complaint about teacher Aldona Kezytė's work, but he had been instructed to discharge her since she was too religious.
A few days later Miss Kezytė prepared the statement and was forced to leave her position. She had spent about 25 years at the school and was cited by the administration several times for her good work. Several times she had even received commendations from the government for her work.
In discharging Miss Kezytė, the administration of the school stated that thereafter she had no right even to set foot inside the school.
To the Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR
To the editors of Tarybinis Mokytojas
(From) Citizen Irena Smetonienė, daughter of Jonas, a surgeon's assistant, residing in the Village of Svilonėliai, Užusaliai Area, Jonava Rayon
On February 14, 1975 there was a class meeting of grade VIII b of the Karmėlava High School. During the course of the meeting, my son began to doubt in "that sweet word — freedom". He began arguing that there is no freedom.
Instead of proving that the child was mistaken, the teachers and administrators of the school guaranteed that he would be given a poor recommendation and that for him all doors to higher education and future advancement in life will be closed.
The principal took the child to the office and ordered him to write an explanation. My son refused to write anything in the absence of his parents. The principal then began looking through a list of telephone numbers, threatening that she would call the Security forces or the militia with their rubber truncheons. The frightened child wrote a stetement of "explanation" as dictated by the principal. A few friends of Antanas were also summoned to the principal's office, where they were ordered to write something, then left the office frightened and crying.
Upon visiting the school the boy's father did not learn what went on in the principal's office.
At the end of the second trimester my son was severely censured in front of the entire school for "spreading reactionary ideas in the Vlllth grade."
My daughter Gražina is a student in the sixth grade of the same school. She is also a member of the literary club, participates in extra-curricular activities and like my son, gets no low marks. She as yet has not raised any heretical questions at any meeting. (After seeing her brother's example, I doubt that she will be as truthful or as brave, since in school it is said that good conduct marks and the future is open only to the cowards, the cunning and the compromisers.)
Regardless of her flawless conduct, at the end of the second trimester she did not receive an exemplary grade in conduct. On the oc-
casion of March 8 [International Woman's Day,—Trans. Note] the mothers of exemplary students were honored. A number of sixth graders inquired why Smetonaitė was ignored. The teacher (Mrs.) Bakšienė replied that this had occurred "for certain reasons." She has nothing against Gražina, but the teachers' council would not agree to evaluate her conduct as exemplary. Later the teacher recounted how one boy always received an exemplary conduct grade and how he later entered the Theological Seminary of Kaunas. This meant unpleasant repercussions for the school.
On April 3, I went to the school, seeking an explanation, but was unsuccessful. The administrator of the school believes she acted rightly and that my son is a transgressor.
Please explain to all of us, both the parents and teachers, and especially to the children, who is in the wrong?
N.B. My husband and I had been deported. Our children were born in Siberian exile. We do not know how to hide all that from our children, we cannot hide it and think that lies or the hiding of such facts would not be the proper way to raise our children.
The school should be more sensitive to all our children's questions. Alas, the children are punished and intimidated for their courage. Antanas' classmates were forced to become informers.
Fear, darkness and force will not prove that freedom exists today.
4/7/75 (Mrs.) Irena Smetonienė
(Gečiauskienė is the principal of Karmėlava High School, Aprak-sina is the home room teacher of class VIII b.)
The Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR referred Mrs. I. Smetonienė's complaint to K. Švedas, the director of the People's Department of Education for the Kaunas Rayon, for investigation of the facts mentioned in I. Smetonienė's letter. Following are the results of that investigation:
"To the Teachers' Bureau of the Ministry of Education of the Lithuanian SSR. Copy to: I. Smetonienė, Kaunas Clinical Hospital No. 1, 19 Laisvės Alėja.
The People's Department of Education of the Kaunas Rayon, having checked the facts raised by I. Smetonienė in her letter to the
Minister of Education of the Lithuanian SSR, with regard to the improper conduct of the teachers at Karmėlava High School towards her son Antanas and daughter Gražina, determined that the allegations were unfounded. The school has properly organized the communist education of the students. However, at home citizen I. Smetonienė is raising her children in the opposite spirit, and the children, especially her son Antanas, express these hostile ideas among the other students. During the course of the investigation it was determined that the administrators of the school used no force against Antanas and the other students. The school has been instructed to utilize the assistance of the employees of the Executive Committee of the Council of Working People's Deputies and representatives of civic organizations in discussing the improper education of her children with citizen I. Smetonienė and in seeking to convince her not to interfere with the school's efforts for the communist education of its students.
April 30, 1975 K. Švedas, Director of the People's
Department of Education for the Kaunas Rayon
Debeikiai. On April 13, 1975, Antanas Tamošaitis, a tenth grade student at Debeikiai High School, was killed in an auto accident.
On April 14, his parents were visited by Aldona Staliaus-kienė, a teacher and (local Communist) Party secretary, who stated that if Antanas were to be buried in Church, she would tear all of the ribbons of the wreaths, would give them no assistance, and would not even give them an automobile. The mother (of the deceased) would not agree.
On April 15, the tenth graders formed an honor guard at the casket of their deceased friend. (Mrs.) Staliauskienė arrived, tore the ribbons off the wreaths, and after crumbling them, threw them into a corner. The girls wept. Kazimieras Šinkūnas, the chairman of the local collective farm arrived and along with Aldona Staliauskienė closeted themselves in a room with the mother (of the deceased) (Her husband is dead.) and, using all sorts of threats and methods of persuasion, forced (the mother) to agree to a funeral without the church. Staliauskienė consulted on the matter of the funeral with Zinaida Barkauskienė, (Communist ( Party secretary for the AnykščiaiRayon.
The mother was unable to resist the pressure and agreed to have her son's casket taken to the school and buried without (being taken to the) church.
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On May 7, 1975, Vaitiekūnas, the principal of Varėna High School complained to (Mrs.) Stefa Verseckienė about the fact that her son, a fourth year student, goes to church and serves Mass. If that is not stopped, his conduct will be reviewed and he will publicly be scolded in front of the entire school, (said the principal.) Verseckienė replied that she is happy because the child doesn't run around the streets, but goes to church.
"If you are unable to raise the child properly, we will place him in an institution," threatened the principal.
"What evil does a priest teach?" inquired the mother.
"All priests are drunkards, profligates, parasites, and thieves. And you allow your child to visit such (people). You permit your son to kneel before idols. What sort of a mother are you? We will strip you of your rights as a mother," screamed the principal.
Verseckienė, who has already buried three small children, is herself a victim of heart disease, and each day is expecting news of her husband's death (he had heart surgery) returned home exhausted and that night suffered a heart attack. That is how "individual efforts at explaining facts to believers" are carried out.
Bagaslaviškis. High School teacher Šidliauskienė scolded Strazdas, a student, for attending church on March 16, 1975, thus disgracing the entire school. The student was warned never to attend church again and to choose between church and school.
(Mrs.) Šidliauskienė has also warned other students not to attend church on Easter, since they would thus disgrace both the school and the teachers and would hinder their admission to institutions of higher education. Despite all the warnings, very many students attended Easter services.
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Gudžiūnai. The conduct mark of Eugenija Venskauskaitė, an eighth grade student at Gudžiūnai High School was reduced to satisfactory in 1975 because she refused to organize and participate in programs of entertainment at the school during Lent.
Thoughts of an Old Teacher
(The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania is of the opinion that at this time it would be improper to publish the name of the (said) teacher.)
"I attended high school under the czar. The teacher, who attempted to educate me as a patriot of their own type, cast slurs on Catholicism. At the time as an uncritical youth my mind accepted everything as presented. I was enthralled by the then fashionable positivist idea that the only things are real which are material and can be experienced. I left high school as a convinced materialist and, of course, an atheist.
When the guns of the First World War were silenced, I chose the teaching profession and cultivated the field of education. In 1924, I joined the recently founded "Ethical Culture Society of Freethinkers." I spread the idea of atheism among my students and among adults. I thought that one of the causes of hardship and lack of education among the peasantry was its religiosity. Therefore, I struggled agains religion.
Later various trials and tribulations of life forced me to review my ideological position. The experienced mind was already free of the impressions and feelings of youth and I, therefore, saw numerous things in a different light. My "belief in materialism wavered. I realized that its philosophical basis was too weak, that it does not offer a serious and satisfactory answer for the most important problems of life, and that religion is absolutely not the Church, I learned about in atheist pamphlets. God impressed me as the only logical answer to the problems of life and I parted with atheism. Many of the people of my generation took a similar step, among them the famous physics protessor V. Čepinskis.
Alas, some of my students accepted the ideas I was rejecting, as their own. Some of them were fascinated by K.(arl) Marx. When units of the Red Army entered Lithuania in June, 1941, I cried, when I saw more than one of my former students actively taking part in the demonstrations organized by foreigners. Those young people could not grasp the situation and began serving foreign gods. They desecrated those ideals which were very dear to me as a Lithuanian and for which during czarist times I had to suffer at the hands of the gendarmes. It was then that I understood that all of the free thinker activity objectively served the interest of the enemies of Lithuania.
Then came the German occupation. The brown "liberators" were assisted not by those who had been brought up according to the ideals of Ateitis or Šaltinėlis [Catholic periodicals designed for youth published in Lithuania from the beginning of the century to the Second World War. Trans. Note] but those who nourished their souls on the ideas of Laisvoji Mintis (Free Thought), [the publication of the Ethical Culture Society of Freethinkers in independent Lithuania. Trans. Note] Most of these people were not interested in the welfare of the nation, but in a good position at the side of the occupying power.
On the return of the Red Army in 1944, I continued to teach, but did not resume my work on behalf of atheism. Once in class I read the satires of V.(incas) Kudirka [A leader of the pre-World War I Lithuanian national movement. Trans. Note.] to my students. As a result, I was arrested. O the irony of fate! I faced a former student as my interrogator. I could not believe that a former student could demonstrate such hatred for a teacher, that he would talk so cynically about things, which I, as a Lithuanian considered sacred and dear. I then understood that if a person has no deep religious roots, he can become an animal, a wild animal. His ideal will not be the truth, but a comfortable position.
Today, I am already one step away from the grave. My 10 years odyssey through the Gulag Archipelago, which was provided for by the new "liberators", was an opportunity to get to know God better. Today I painfully remember that I devoted my best and most fruitful years to the struggle against Him. I believe that God will forgive me for that. I was a victim of circumstances. The last 35 years did not spare me moments of pain. But they also opened my eyes. I am grateful to God for that. One thing still bothers me, that I was unable to undo the damages I have done, while sowing the seed of atheism in the hearts of my fellow countrymen.
Today I look at my younger colleague, and at you the teacher.
The Party has made you its assistant. It wants you, struggling against religion in the classroom, would reeducate those young souls in the same manner as once the Teutonic Knights or the Tartars, after kidnapping our children, reeducated them and sent them out to fight against our nation... If you carry out that task—since you see, the struggle against religion simultaneously weakens the morality of the nation—you do so because you don't have the required understanding of the situation, you aren't properly informed. It cannot be otherwise. It is possible in our country to freely obtain information on religion and philosophy, as it is in others? In carrying out your atheistic task you don't understand that you are harming your own nation.
According to offical statistics more than a third of Lithuania's teachers have no higher education, and a majority of those who do, received their diplomas after completing correspondence courses. It is hard for you to grasp the realm of ideas.
Economic conditions are also not easy. Inflation keeps weakening the ruble. Therefore, if you want to support your family, while working in the countryside, you are forced to keep a cow, feed pigs and chickens, while in the city you must seek other means of supplementing your income.
However, you must still find time for books. During the war and the post-war years the "liberators" destroyed much literature, which would have been useful in assisting you in understanding questions of religion and the history of our nation. Let us make use of the existing literature! We have works by J.(uozas) Jurginis, R. Vebra, V.(ytautas) Merkys, B. Genzelis, (and) A. Tyla. A majority of these works is extremely tendentious and non-Lithuanian in spirit. But in knowing how to evaluate them critically you will be able to answer your own questions as to why the theistic government of the czar used such draconian methods in its struggle against the Catholic Church, and why the new masters of Lithuania conduct an analogous struggle against that very same church.
R. Vebra asserts that "Muraviev proclaimed the Catholic Church to be a political heresey," and all Catholics—politically untrustworthy. The government officials concept of "Catholic" in the
Gubernia of Kaunas, where almost all Lithuanians resided, meant the same thing as the concept of "Lithuanian." The czarist government considered religious assimilation as the first step in the process of denationalization. The persecution of other religions was an expression of national oppression. R. Vėbra asserted that M.(ikhail) Muraviev (the governor-general of Vilnius during and after the Revolution of 1863) and Ivan Kornilov, curator of the (Vilnius) educa-tionala district had a twofold purpose in Lithuania: "to denationalize (the country) and to isolate the schools from the influence of the Catholic Church."
Isn't the present struggle being conducted for the same purpose? A majority of Soviet historians admit that the Catholic Church in Lithuania, while subjectively attempting to preserve the Catholic faith, objectively ruined the policy of the czarist government aimed at denationalizing the Lithuanian nation.
Doesn't the Catholic Church in Lithuania today have the same mission?
Some segments of the atheist press sometimes mention the reason for the intense struggle against the Catholic Church, (noting) that it preserves "obsolete traditions" and that "religious superstitions" prevent Lithuanians from participating in mixed marriages and, as such, hinder the "convergence" (of nations) and, as a result, russification.
A Lithuanian, who struggles against the Church, is the grave-digger of his own nation, since the Church is the only institution, not yet banned, struggling for the preservation of Lithuanian traditions and is almost the only teacher of ethics.
The imperialist correctly understand the place of the struggle for atheism in their plans—while we, in blindly serving atheistic propaganda, assist them in realizing their plans. The secret tutors and mothers who taught their children while spinning during czarist times preserved our national consciousness, book smugglers aroused the Lithuanians to seek education and to think for themselves, while today the teachers are hired as gravediggers for the Lithuanian nation... Alas, some of my young colleagues don't understand that. The teacher of today is assigned the task of burying the dreams of Valančius, Basanavičius, Kudirka and Maironis... (Leaders of the
Lithuanian cultural renaissance of the second half of the 19th and the early 20th century.).
What will happen to us in the near future?
The teacher both resurrects and buries the nation....
For me as an old man, it is hard not to see a gleam of hope..."
Tarybinis Mokytojas writes
"...during the summer, the influence of atheist education decreases. People connected with the Church, religious old ladies and other people, who are determined to spread religious superstition, try to make use of this situation. They step up their activities. Thev first turn their attention to the students of the lower erades. the grammar school students, who during the summer are most completely cut off from their schools. Thus, those connected with religion, having lured the little ones with candy and other pleasures, attempt to entrap the children in the web of religious superstition. Frequently this is done without the knowledge or permission of the parents or adults... We are disturbed that young delicate hearts are being harmed, that the little ones are taught to be hypocrites, when their consciousness is wrapped in a cloak of darkness.
For that reason, during the summer vacations, every educator, particularly the teachers in country grammar schools should maintain close contacts with parents, and carefully strive that no child be caught in the trap of those connected with the Church... Atheist education carried out during the school year, should not cease during summer vacation."
"Certain problems with regard to the atheistic upbringing of the students arise during summer vacation. Attempts are still made to entice some lower grade students into participating in religious ceremonies. The attention of the teachers should always be centered on those families, which still maintain their religious traditions. Patient and persistent efforts on an individual basis are necessary wjth regard to religious parents and their children. The Museum of Atheism of the Lithuanian SSR is very useful in furthering efforts aimed at fostering atheism. It is, however, unfortunate, that some of the schools of the republic only infrequently organize field trips to the museum. The schools of the Vilkaviškis, Mažeikiai, Šilalė, Švenčionys, Tauragė, Telšiai, Joniškis, Širvintos and Zarasai Rayons organized an unjustifiably small number of field trips to the museum in 1874." (4/13/75).
Editor's Note: Despite all government warnings to the teachers, from the very start of the summer tens of thousands of children in Lithuania began preparing for their first confession and first Communion. Neither candy nor teaching without parental consent was required.